Cancer Treatment: Side Effects And Ways To Manage Them
The side effects of cancer treatments can vary depending on the type of cancer, its stage, and the type of treatment given. Sometimes it can take quite some time to get over the side effects and for the situation to improve. Cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplant, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy.
Also known as the cancer aftereffects, they can disturb the daily life of the patient, even long after the cancer treatment is over. It’s not possible to predict if there will be any side effects after the ongoing treatment, but not every person experiences them.
List of common side effects of cancer treatment:
Fatigue is a common side effect of many cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. More than 70 percent of cancer patients complain of feeling extremely tired, weak, and energy-deprived.
Cancer patients who suffer from fatigue as a side effect are not relieved from the tiredness even after giving proper rest to the body.
Though it can be the toughest side effect to cope with. maintaining a nutritious diet and engaging in physical exercises along with giving proper rest to the body can help to improve the situation.
Ways to avoid Fatigue:
- Balance out resting and working hours
- Make a proper plan for resting
- Eat and drink healthy
- Talk to a specialist, if required.
Nausea is the feeling of sickness in the stomach, close to what it feels before vomiting. It is common when cancer is being treated through chemotherapy. Too much vomiting can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, which is why it’s important to control nausea, mainly using anti-nausea drugs. There can be different types of nausea caused by cancer treatment, such as anticipatory, acute, and delayed nausea and vomiting.
Ways to manage Nausea and Vomiting:
- Take anti-nausea medicines
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids
- Avoid fried and spicy food
- Try relaxing techniques such as music, deep breathing, or reading a book.
Sleep problems are quite common among people being treated for cancer. These problems can be a result of side effects from the cancer treatment medications, or due to stress which may occur due to excessively worrying about the disease.
Long term sleeping problems can cause depression and anxiety which makes the situation worse. Missing out on sleeping more often also deteriorates the health by affecting the immune system and increasing the blood pressure. A good night’s sleep helps to keep a good physical and mental health.
Ways to deal with Insomnia:
- Ask for medications with lower side effects
- Try relaxation therapy for a change
- Set proper bedtime habits
- Opt for sleep medicines, if the problem still persists
Diarrhea means having soft or watery bowel movements. It can be caused by medicines or other cancer treatments and usually leads to dehydration and malnourishment in the body. Long term diarrhea makes it difficult for the body to absorb all the water and nutrients. If the problem persists, long term dehydration can be life-threatening because of too much fluid loss from the body.
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Ways to manage Diarrhea:
- Drink more fluids every day
- Consume small meals rather than large ones
- Take medications as prescribed by the doctor
5. Skin and nail changes:
There can be changes in the skin and nails post-cancer treatment. It can be caused by radiation therapy, chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. The skin changes can be dryness, blisters, rashes, swelling, itchiness, or burning sensations. Nail changes include cracks, infections, and yellowness.
Ways to manage skin and nail changes:
- Use only recommended skin products
- Stay hygienic
- Use moisturizer
- Protect skin from sunburns
- Take recommendations from the doctor to prevent the problem
Some people experience pain after cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and surgery can cause pain or numbness in certain parts of the body, especially the scars from the surgery which may cause pain for quite some time. Radiotherapy can cause pain if the skin if too sensitive and the pain can last for a few months. Controlling the pain is necessary as it can be severe for some people and cause a negative impact on your life.
Ways to control pain:
- Keep track of where and how long the pain is felt
- Take prescribed medicines to reduce the pain
- Opt for different treatments like acupuncture and massages
7. Decreased Sex drive:
Certain cancers can lower the sex drive in both men and women. It can be caused due to cancer treatment or other secondary factors such as depression, anxiety, or severe pain in body parts. The probability of having this issue depends on the type of cancer, treatment, duration, age, and other general health factors.
Ways to manage:
- Use prescribed medications for boosting sex drive
- Manage the secondary factors which may this problem
- Get support and counseling